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Three Holes--Four Bullets: Must Be That New Math!

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Identification Volume: 50 Issue: 4 Dated: July-August 2000 Pages: 339-343
Allen B. Greenspan
Date Published
5 pages
This article examines a case in which four bullets were found in a homicide victim, but there were only three bullet wounds.
The victim, who was found in a car trunk in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had been shot in the head three times, according to the medical examiner; however, during the autopsy four projectiles were recovered. A single projectile was removed from the temporal bone of the first wound examined; a second projectile was removed from the posterior portion of the neck; and the next gunshot wound yielded two projectiles from the spinal canal. All four projectiles were sent to the firearms section of the crime laboratory for analysis. Included with the evidence was a request for a plausible explanation for the two projectiles following a single gunshot wound track. All four projectiles were found to be .38 caliber full-jacketed bullets with a lead or open base, the type normally loaded in either .38 Special or .357 Magnum cartridges. Plausible explanations as to the reason that two bullets might be found in a single wound track include two rapidly fired shots (unlikely due to kinetics), or possibly a "Duplex" load. The physical anomalies on the evidence indicated, however, that what most likely occurred was the firing of a "tandem bullet." A tandem bullet occurs when a gun is fired and the bullet lodges in the barrel rather than exiting. Should the gun be fired a second time, one of two things may occur. The barrel could swell or rupture due to the increased build-up of pressure; or both bullets could be simultaneously expelled out of the barrel of the weapon. If the weapon was discharged at close range, it is possible for both bullets to enter the body through the same hole in "piggyback" fashion. 3 figures and 2 references